Home schooling in Spain is a challenging option. It’s not technically illegal, but some areas specifically don’t allow it – except in some circumstances. In fact the only thing that’s clear is that it’s totally unclear. Certainly, once you’re in the school system it’s very, very hard to get out again, so families who are choosing to home educate in Spain tend to do so from their children’s early years.
Countries across the world have vastly different laws about home schooling. Yet, during the Covid-19 pandemic, even those with the strictest laws about school attendance are locking the school gates and working out ways to support children’s learning in alternative ways. Teachers are setting up blogs and YouTube channels and sending work by email. Parents who are in a position to do so are forming groups with other parents to support each other in this new way of educating their children. It must be acknowledged that this isn’t an option for all, of course. Many families don’t have laptops or tablets. Some don’t even have internet access. Home education is perfectly possible without this technology, but while we’re all locked down and museums, art galleries, playgrounds and libraries are closed, it isn’t realistically feasible without significant resources already in the home.
No matter the challenges, parents who may never have considered educating their child outside school are being forced into working out how they can help them at home. And where they would never have otherwise, some of these families are recognising the joy that home education can bring, seeing the possibilities for their children’s emotional and physical development, as well as the educational benefits.
Where I am in Andalusia, Spain, home educating families are much less common than in the UK, and previously the attitude to it was fairly hostile amongst the local Spanish community. This is partly a hangover from Franco times, where education was used as a form of oppression rather than liberation; school is now often thought of as a human right for children that must be appreciated and therefore best taken in class. Children who are out in public before the normal school closing time of 2pm are often reported to the police, and social services can quickly become involved. And yet, in this short time since the pandemic broke (at the time of writing we’ve been in lockdown for nearly six weeks), the tide is definitely turning.
More and more parents are talking about how, despite the fear and limited physical space the lockdown has brought, their children are happier and less stressed. In Spain, children have not been able to pass the threshold of their homes for any reason other than a medical emergency during the entire lockdown period. Some parents are reporting that kids inside small flats, with no outside space, while finding the imprisoning very hard, are relaxing in other areas. They’re getting more sleep, and they’re feeling less pressure. That’s not to say that the lockdown isn’t causing severe mental and physical health problems, because it is, but there are clear upsides to the lack of school.
Parents who are working with their children on educational projects, whether supplied by the school or developed themselves, are experiencing the delight of learning with their kids, and seeing their kids’ love of learning come back again. The big question is whether this is likely to translate into more parents deciding that maybe there is another way. And how will this be supported by the community?
It remains to be seen whether the curtain twitchers will still twitch. And there’s no doubt that the majority of parents are desperately waiting for the schools to re-open, for myriad reasons, including those who adore the presence of their hijos and hijas but who simply don’t have the type of work which allows this to be an option. However, there are an interestingly high number of parents who are feeling like this experience is one that they’d like to continue.
There are many people posting on social media asking for support, and for experienced parents to share their knowledge. Both immigrant families to Spain (where school is an important part of Spanish immersion) and Spanish families are considering whether, come September, school will remain part of their lives. Comments on social media include, “This has made me a convert. I love it.” And “I am up for my little girl to learn in a similar way as we may have learnt. To ask many questions- to think for ourselves and not learn by solely memorising stuff.”
Some, however, have concerns about the practicalities. For instance, “I think something often missing from articles and the conversation around home schooling / classroom schooling is the disproportionate burden on mothers, who are usually the stay-home parent. Not being in school might be what’s optimal emotionally/creatively etc. for children, but if the parent who is 100% responsible for the physical emotional and educational needs of their children doesn’t have community support, they burn out. In Spain, that is a very real scenario.”
And undeniably, for some, this experience has put them off home education forever! “… I’m gonna kiss, hug and cry all over those teachers when the schools go back!”
We must all remember that this forced Covid-19 education at home is not the same as home schooling, and home schooling is mostly not done in the home! However, that said, this experience is perhaps the closest to home schooling that many parents in Spain (and I would imagine in many countries) have ever had, and it will be fascinating to see, over the next few months, how many decide to continue by choice what has been inflicted by circumstance.
All quotes are included with permission.